A lady member of the Baguio City Council sued Baguio City mayor Benjamin B. Magalong at the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged violation RA 3019 or the AntiGraft and Corrupt Practices and
RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards over the purchase of a lot in Benguet
purportedly for a socialized housing project. Baguio City councilor Mylen Yaranon lodged the
Ombudsman complaint against Mayor Magalong on December 20, 2023 over the purchase of a lot in Sitio Topinao, in Poblacion, Tuba, Benguet, after the local chief executive reportedly illegally buying the lot.

Yaranon explained that what the City Council approved is a P120 million from the General Funds for “land banking” of the city government and there was no mentioning of buying a lot in Sitio Topinao in the documents they approved. On March 23, 2023, Magalong wrote a request letter to the City Council asking him to be authorized to represent Baguio City to enter into a Deed of Absolute Sale for the lot in Sitio Topinao being offered by a certain William Tan and his daughter.

The said lot was priced at P1,500.00 per square meter. The City Government bought the lot for
P95,377,000.00. Yaranon insists that the City Council did not approve any Ordinance allowing the
mayor for the said Deed of Absolute Sale. She said that Magalong still persisted in signing the deed and allowed that the City Government to pay the lot in full, even if the seller is willing to a 50% down payment and the remaining 50% balance be paid in 24 equal monthly installments. With it, Yaranon said Magalong committed a Grave Abuse of Authority, Grave Misconduct, and Conduct
Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

On May 3, 2023, the Baguio City Council conducted a council after an inquiry in Aid of Legislation with the City Legal Officer, City Assessor, City Planning and Development Coordinator, City Budget Officer and Magalong himself found that the purchase of the lot is not included in the 5-year
Development Plan of the City Government. The local legislative body also found-out that there are
other offers from other Baguio lot owners where the City Government can opt to buy for housing and other purposes but were not entertained.

Yaranon said that before buying the lot in Topinao, it should have undergone a feasibility study to determine if it will be favorable to the local government. In another inquiry, there was no even seismic hazard study conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). According to Yaranon, now that the lot was transferred to the Baguio City Government,
it was recently discovered that there is a Lis Pendens Annotation or a pending legal action over the said lot because it is classified as an agricultural lot.

She added that the City Government have to apply before the local government of Tuba for the conversion of the lot into a residential area to realize the plan of the city government to develop it into for a housing project. Yaranon, who clarified there is nothing personal with the Mayor, also sought the Ombudsman to suspend Magalong for the violation while the case would be heard and after finding him guilty should dismiss him from service for Grave Misconduct, Grave Abuse of Authority, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service.

She stressed that she saw that the people of Baguio and the City Government will be at the losing end with the lot purchase. In reaction, Magalong vowed he is open to investigation and ready to face the charges and answer the claims “in the interest of truth and justice.” “I am prepared to
answer all the charges in the proper forum,” the mayor said. Magalong added, “I welcome the development to determine who is telling the truth. I have nothing to hide. All the documents are open for their scrutiny since it has always been our thrust to have an open government.”

He showed confidence, “that justice will prevail because the acquisition of this lot which is intended for our socialized housing project underwent a complete, correct and transparent process. Due
diligence was observed all throughout.”

Artemio A. Dumlao/ABN

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